Near and Dear by Ray Perez

Posted on December 13, 2016

Attending college and being involved on campus in different student organizations provided me with many enriching experiences. These experiences not only helped me to develop professionally for life after college, but they also helped me to grow as a person and even learn more about myself. For all of the experiences that I had, none are as memorable as the very first time that I participated in the United Way of El Paso County’s Alternative Spring Break right here in El Paso.
It was the Spring of 2014 and I had signed up to be a Team Lead for ASB. What made ASB different than other spring breaks is that it is focused around a community service project. For us, this was helping to build houses for low-income families. Something that made this project so special is that not only were we helping to build houses for different families, but that we were actually working with the families themselves. Some members of the families were already there at the work site when we arrived in the morning, and then the rest of the families would arrive in the evening. We were helping moms, dads, sons, daughters, etc. to build their very own homes. Words cannot express just how humbling or what a true privilege it was to help these families build the houses that they would be living in and calling “home”.
Being a Team Lead was service in and of itself. It meant that not only was I going to help with the service project, but that I was also going to be a host and a leader to the students who had come in from around the country. In this role I had the honor of sharing my culture, my hometown, and even my alma mater with them throughout the week. None of our guests had ever been to El Paso so it was amazing getting to experience my hometown from their perspective. It was almost as I was discovering the place that I have always called home for the very first time. Many of the students were amazed at the beauty of the borderland and the richness our culture. I had never felt so proud of my home and my heritage and I gained a much deeper appreciation of where I come from.
Alternative Spring Break by the United Way of El Paso County was truly an unforgettable experience. Being of service to local area families and sharing my culture and my hometown with our guests is something that has changed me forever. Without question, it has been my most impactful volunteering experience and I have feel blessed to have even had the opportunity.

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